Hands up if you start counting down the days from the moment you book a holiday. From researching the local area to planning outfits for every occasion, it’s easy to get caught up in the sheer excitement of getting away. However, it can be easy to forget about the essentials which could lead to more stress than relaxation. Well fear not, I’m here with a no-fuss countdown of holiday essentials to help you tick everything off that to-do list.
You’ve just booked! Now what?
Check your passport. It may not cross your mind to check the expiry date on your passport but many have been caught out the week (or even less!) before travel and struggled to renew their documents in time. There are premium services available for if you do forget but these involve going to a Passport Customer Service Centre: there may not be one in your local area and appointments can be up to three weeks away. Save yourself the money and worry by checking the expiry dates two months prior to travel as this leaves you plenty of time to renew if necessary. Remember, some countries require travellers to have up to six months left before their passport expires so be sure to check regulations for your destination well in advance.
Airline requirements. If you book flights or a holiday through the airline itself, this will be sorted through you but certain websites will require you to do some research. For example, EasyJet require you to enter your passenger information on their website prior to travel but if you book through a third party site (such as lastminute.com), they won’t necessarily inform you of this on their flight information. Make sure you know how your tickets will be delivered or it could complicate things on arrival at the airport. Often, you can create an account with the flight operator online and enter your information here but if you are unsure, call customer services to confirm any arrangements.
Insure yourself. You can get travel insurance anytime up to the day before you travel but it’s often best to book it at the same time so you won’t forget among the hustle and bustle of getting ready – particularly if you’re organising a family and not just yourself! If you book your entire holiday as a package, some operators give you the option to add travel insurance to the deal but it’s often cheaper to shop around using comparison websites. Make sure you check what’s covered and read the small print to make sure you’re getting the deal you want! You can also get a free EHIC card from the NHS website which offers reduced treatment in Europe.
Two weeks and counting…
Research the local tourist spots. This is particularly relevant if you’re heading away on a city break as popular attractions in cities like London or New York offer deals when you book two or more attractions at the same time. On a recent trip to Barcelona, I found that student card holders (including a UK NUS card) could save up to 25% at tourist spots like the Sagrada Familia. Plus, many of the popular attractions in Paris let EU citizens in free if you show your passport proving that you’re under 26. If you know you’ll be cramming a lot of sightseeing into a day or two, consider taking one of the tourist buses to see the most you possibly can.
Get your currency. There are many different options for travel money and it’s often worth keeping an eye on the rates from when you book in case you spot any good deals. There are a number of agents that offer 0% commission and also give you the option to sell your money back at the same rate so shop around to get the most for your money. Many websites offer free delivery if you’re buying over a certain amount so it’s best to order in advance if you’re planning to buy online.
Start beautifying. Beach holidays can be a source of anxiety if you’re nervous about bearing some skin: who can blame us with being wrapped up warm from the British weather for most of the year! If you’re looking to start a good diet and exercise regime, you will need to begin at least six to three months in advance to maintain it in a healthy manner but there are some quick cheats you can use for a last minute fix. Cut out fizzy drinks by sticking to water and try to scrub/moisturise your skin daily in the run up to holiday. While it feels like a chore, ridding your body of dead skin will even make your tan last longer after you return home.
Less than a week to go!
Sort your mobile phone. Make sure you can use your phone abroad. After getting a new contract, you may have to set it up separately for use abroad. While this is as simple as a quick phone call, many get a nasty surprise when the ‘no service’ bar persists once they step off the plane. I was one of those people on 2011 city break and phone companies will not allow family members in the UK to call on your behalf so check the website of your provider to make sure you’re covered. Also make sure to check the charges for using your phone abroad: I’d always recommend turning your data off and using local WiFi but if you’re on an extended trip, you may want to consider one of their roaming packages.
Gather your documents. You’ll want to print off all your booking confirmation details as well as insurance documents, car hire details and boarding passes if your airline requires you to check in online. Photocopy your passports, drivers licence and any travellers checks in case of emergency.
Call your bank. If you’re planning to take your card abroad, make sure you inform your bank. Foreign transactions are often flagged up as fraudulent and your account could end up being temporarily blocked – not something you want when you’re away from home! Make sure they have the correct phone number to contact you on as many will call with security questions to make sure the transaction was really made by you.
Make a list. It’s easy to forget essential items: some of the most commonly forgotten are suncream, mobile phone chargers, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Tick items off while packing when packing and check again on the day – it’s easy to use your charger the night before travel and leave it plugged in at home!
Finally, the only thing left to do is relax: travel is such an exciting experience so make the most of getting away without the stress now that your holiday essentials are taken care of!